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Seasonal harvests improve food availability, but localized shocks will affect some areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • June 2014
Seasonal harvests improve food availability, but localized shocks will affect some areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Favorable food availability conditions exist across much of the country and access continues to improve as prices decline and food supplies reach local markets.
    • Acute food insecurity is currently Minimal (IPC Phase 1) across all wealth groups as households consume their own produced harvests. The Malawi Kwacha is stable and this is one of many factors that have contributed to a 13 percent reduction in national average maize prices between April and May.
    • During the 2013/14 planting season two livelihood zones experienced prolonged dryness and and early cessation of rains, resulting in production shortfalls in localized areas. Reduced production has lead to lower labor and income opportunities in Central Karonga and Middle Shire. Acute food insecurity in these livelihood zones will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in June. Food security conditions are likely to deteriorate further and will result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between July and September.

    Current Situation
    • Average national maize prices between April and May decreased by approximately 13 percent as the availability of food improved with the new harvest. Average prices in the first two weeks of June showed that the downward trend was continuing with  recorded prices at 7 percent lower than projected and 11 percent lower than May average prices.
    • Informal cross border trade maize imports experienced a decrease of 19  percent between April and May. This is atypical because historical trends indicate that maize imports typically increased steeply (by approximately 75 percent) between April and May. This atypical reduction in imports may be a result of reduced demand. This is especially the case in Southern Malawi markets because the region’s maize production is much higher than in previous years.  Informal maize exports fell by about 63 percent between April and May. This may be due to reports of good production in areas surrounding the traditional export markets across the border.

    Updated Assumptions

    The updated assumptions discussed in the April Food Security Outlook and the May Food Security Outlook Update are still valid. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the May 2014 Malawi Food Security Outlook Update.

    Projected Outlook Through September 2014

    During the outlook period (April-September) the majority of poor rural households across the country are projected to face Minimal food insecurity outcomes (IPC Phase 1). However, due to reduced crop production, reduced household incomes as a result of low crop sales, and projected food prices that will be slightly higher than last year’s levels, poor households in Karonga district (CKA) and Middle Shire (MSH) will face reduced food availability and access.

    Central Karonga Livelihood Zone (CKA), Karonga district
    Lupembe, Mpata and Nyungwe EPAs

    In the April to June period, poor households will run out of own produced food stocks earlier than the normal and will be dependent on markets for food purchases. In the July to September period, poor households will face reduced in-kind payments due to lower food stocks in wealthier households that are hiring labor. They will seek income through ganyu/labor, handcraft sales, firewood and charcoal sales. The lean period will start around July as opposed to January during normal years. Therefore, this income will be inadequate to fulfill basic food needs due to reduced purchasing power. Food prices are projected to increase and will be approximately 40 percent above last year’s prices. These higher prices will negatively affect food access and may force households to reduce the number of meals eaten. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected between April and June. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected between July and September.

    Middle Shire Livelihood Zone (MSH), parts of Balaka, Neno, Zomba, and Blantyre districts
    Phalula, Rivirivi, Utale, Lisungwi, Chingale, and Kunthembwe EPAs

    In the Middle Shire livelihood zone, rains started late and the area experienced prolonged dry spells, along with an early cessation of rains. All of these factors caused poor crop establishment as well as permanent wilting of some planted crops. Early planted crops dried prematurely while late planted crops dried before maturity. Balaka district reported a 10 percent reduction in the production of the staple maize crop, as compared to last season. This is significant because maize is a food that provides poor households approximately 90 percent of their caloric needs. This season the area also suffered lower cash crop production. Cotton production reduced by 20 to 40 percent due to a decrease in the area planted, stunted growth due to dryness, and pest infestation caused by a lack of adequate pesticides. Limited rains since March have reduced prospects for irrigated cultivation. The MSH zone has suffered from food insecurity for about five consecutive years and household coping capacity has dwindled. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected in these localized areas in MSH between April and June. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected between July and September.

    About This Update

    This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work at




    Figures Figure 1. Projected national average maize prices, 2014.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Projected national average maize prices, 2014.

    Source: FEWS NET and AMIS

    Figure 2. Informal maize import trends, 2014.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Informal maize import trends, 2014.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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